Conquering common challenges in structural steel fabrication with X-Definition plasma

NZ fabricator finds success through three-way partnership

Posted on 11/01/2022
Posted by Hypertherm

Structural steel is one of the most widely used construction materials of the century, often viewed as a crucial component of modern architecture. Given that these components directly impact a building’s structural integrity, regulators have over the years adjusted governing regulations regarding its use to ensure occupant safety. In some countries, the use of larger, thicker, and heavier structural steel pieces are now the norm, and fabricators need the right cutting equipment to handle these types of materials confidently.

For one New Zealand-based metal fabricator, GH Engineering, it was clear that cut quality and productivity were key factors to ensure the business’s success in the long term. Situated in Palmerston North, the company has more than a decade’s experience in architectural and structural metals manufacturing, and it delivers components to the structural steel and construction industries.

Recognizing the need for change

As the demand for structural steel components grew, GH Engineering saw a corresponding increase in orders for sizable, heavy metal slabs. Although the company had a Hypertherm Powermax105® plasma system from Hypertherm Associates on a light industrial cutting table, the set-up could no longer meet their needs. It was simply too small. It ended up having to cut some of its larger 2D parts on a beamline designed for 3D cutting, and outsource the rest. Besides the added cost, the need to outsource meant the team had less control over production, which invariably affected project timelines.

For these reasons, the GH Engineering team felt that investing in a new plasma cutting table would solve their issues. The team then embarked on a journey to shortlist options that could both expand their in-house capabilities and improve their work processes.

Advanced plasma cutting solutions to the rescue

When evaluating available options, GH Engineering had to deliberate over several key factors that mattered most to the structural steels and construction industries. Top considerations included cut tolerances of acceptable ranges, consistency in cut quality, production runtime, and returns on investment.

GH Engineering reached out to Plazmax® Technologies — a manufacturer of CNC profile cutting solutions that exclusively feature Hypertherm’s hardware and software products — to explore some of their advanced automated solutions.

Plazmax understood GH Engineering’s needs well and made a radical recommendation. It suggested the company consider a Hypertherm X-Definition plasma system, also from Hypertherm Associates, that would help future-proof the fabricator’s business. GH Engineering heeded their advice and eventually invested in the Plazmax CutPro HS system, fully integrated with Hypertherm Associates products: an X-Definition XPR300® plasma system, EDGE® Connect CNC system, and ProNest® CAD/CAM software. This suite of solutions helped to significantly enhance the metal fabricator’s capabilities and to expand the range of services it could offer to its clients.

“We took a leap of faith and decided to invest in the larger Plazmax CutPro HS cutting table with the XPR300 plasma system,” shared Gary Hobbs, Managing Director at GH Engineering. “While we didn’t initially think we needed something this big, this decision turned out to be a great one as it has enabled us to not only handle current jobs well, but to also be better equipped for faster, bigger, and longer cutting jobs down the road.”

Since adopting the new plasma cutting system, GH Engineering is able to fulfill all cutting jobs internally while meeting stringent customer requirements. The production team can now save on the time and effort required to transport between 15 to 40 tons of material to and from the external contractor’s site, and use its older beamline to process the 3D parts it was designed for.


Reaping fulfilling results

Now able to handle thicker metal plates, the company can confidently deliver mild steel plates of 50 to 60 mm thickness with consistently good cut quality. GH Engineering makes use of Plazmax’s pre-pierce technique that is embedded in the ProNest software to go beyond the original 50 mm pierce capacity of the XPR300. In fact, GH Engineering is capable of achieving pierce capacities of up to 70 mm with great results.

The new cutting table also comes equipped with an array of technologies, collectively called SureCut™, that integrates the best of Hypertherm Associates and Plazmax, creating a synergy that optimizes cutting outcomes. Combining Plazmax’s proprietary bevel head and Hypertherm True Bevel® technology, the machine allows the production team to skip the time-consuming task of dialing in bevel cutting parameters, and creates accurate and consistent beveled edges in a single step. In addition, the machine features Hypertherm True Hole® technology, which allows improved hole cutting of bolt-ready holes. Along with Plazmax’s additional cutting parameters, GH Engineering now comfortably accomplishes hole cutting in mild steel that is up to 50 mm thick.

Besides enhancements to the hardware, Plazmax also provides its proprietary Soft OpCon (Operators Console) panel for the EDGE Connect CNC software to enable easy machine positioning, remote viewing of cutting by the operator, and remote diagnostics by Plazmax.

Fulfilling partnership set to deepen

GH Engineering now enjoys significantly reduced production time, higher throughput, and greater profitability.

Addressing the results of the partnership, Brad Johnston, Product Development Manager at Plazmax Technologies, added, “The entire suite of technologies has worked well together to enhance GH Engineering’s capabilities. With the consumables lasting longer, it’s no wonder that the machine can achieve longer uptimes to complete jobs much quicker.”

GH Engineering’s present capabilities has risen to prominence among both private and public sectors due to the superb quality and improved productivity of its offerings. The company has now expanded its business model to include cutting for other structural steel businesses throughout the North Island in New Zealand. Furthermore, all the benefits highlighted earlier have delivered an excellent return on investment, with the machine paying for itself within a year.

The company has also enjoyed great rapport with the representatives from both Plazmax and Hypertherm Associates, and this three-way partnership is set to deepen as the parties continue to work together to enhance user experience and achieve greater business goals for GH Engineering.



About GH Engineering Ltd

GH Engineering is a metal fabrication company based in Palmerstone North, New Zealand. Established in August 2007, the company deals mainly with architectural and structural steel industries, and delivers quality structural steel components with exacting tolerances that meet the country’s standards for structural applications.

About Plazmax Technologies

Originally established under the name of “CNC Engineering Solutions”, Plazmax Technologies has been in the CNC game since 2011. Initially offering a service to design machinery and parts and manufacturing, using CNC milling machinery. The business plan was always to eventually identify a need within the market and manufacture our own branded product. Our criteria required that the product needed to include technical elements that would utilise and challenge our existing skill sets. Find out more at

Posted on 11/01/2022
Posted by Hypertherm

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